Exploring the Great Outdoors In & Around Mexico City

During a pandemic, we definitely wanted to make sure we spent some of our time outdoors. We loved exploring the museums of Mexico City, but sometimes we needed a break from the mask wearing and hand sanitizer.

Two of our favorite excursions in and around Mexico City were the Bosque de Chapultepec and Teotihuacan.

We had often heard that the Bosque was comparable to New York’s Central Park, but honestly, it is so much more! Central Park measures 843 acres (and is actually only the fifth largest park in New York City). Whereas the Bosque is twice its size, at 1,695 acres.

The Bosque de Chapultepec is actually split into three sections. The first section is the one we spent the most time in. It is the oldest and contains most of the park’s attractions, like the castle, zoo, and some museums as well.

The second section is mostly used for exercise and, in addition to jogging trails, also has places for yoga, karate, and more. The third section is the newest and least developed. It is filled with trees and wildlife and is primarily used as an ecological preserve.

In addition to walking through the forest, we also spent a morning at the Chapultepec Castle. We paid for our entry at the base of the hill and walked the paved path up to the gates.

The first thing we were greeted by (well, after the guard, who required us to empty our water bottles) was the stunning architecture. The castle has multiple levels with a patio that wraps around the whole structure.

From every direction, you get a view of the park in its entirety. At first, it was actually quite hard to pay attention to the castle itself. The views were almost apocalyptic – trees as far as you can see, with the city in the far off distance.

Even knowing the number of acres this park takes up fails to prepare you for the magnitude once you see it from above.

The hill itself was known to be a sacred place for the Aztecs. The castle was built during the 1700s by the Spanish and has been used as a Military Academy, Imperial residence, Presidential residence, observatory, and now museum.

Most of the castle is open air, giving visitors the option of looking in while staying socially distanced outside.

The upper floor is home to a beautiful outdoor garden, but what I loved most were the stained glass windows looking out on the grounds.

Some of the interior rooms required lines, as they were limiting the number of people in indoor spaces. Despite that, we found that we really enjoyed our time at the castle.

Afterward, we continued to walk through the park and came across vendors, carnival games, and more, and we were grateful when we made our way away from the crowds and into the quieter parts of the forest.

The very last thing we did in Mexico was an excursion to the UNESCO site, Teotihuacan. We had been holding out because rain was in the forecast nearly every day of our two-week stay. However, in Mexico City, that meant beautiful mornings and afternoons that might occasionally end in light showers. We only experienced heavy rains once or twice.

We also hadn’t finalized exactly how we would get to the ruins. Located about 50 km northeast of Mexico City, there were tour companies, Ubers, and taxis – but we didn’t know which would be best.

Surprisingly, at that time, I started talking with an old acquaintance of mine whom I had met during my first visit to Mexico back in 2007. Hilariously enough, he had just been in my home state of Minnesota, but was now back in Mexico City. He offered to drive us to Teotihuacan and then grab lunch together.

We took off around 8am and had a great time catching up. We should have known that it was a trip he’d made many times before, so he was somewhat of an expert on the area. We chose a car park near the main temples and made our way past the vendors and stalls to the site.

The first thing everyone noticed was that the temples were empty. Typically, tourists are allowed to climb up them, which probably offers incredible views, but also takes away from the atmosphere (not to mention is questionable ethically when considering the sustainability of the site).

Teotihuacan is an ancient Mesoamerican city which, at its peak, was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. Built between the first and seventh centuries AD, it is well known for several of its monuments: The Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramids of the Sun (pictured above) & the Moon, the Avenue of the Dead, and its murals.

We enjoyed walking off the paved path and circling the different structures – of course it gave us different view points, but also, Teotihuacan was one of the busiest things we did in Mexico (second or third only to the Tulum ruins and Monte Albán).

Due to the cool summer and extensive rainfall, everything was so lush and green.

Teotihuacan, translated as “the place where the gods were created,” is truly impressive and it was only after we left that I realized how much more of the city we’d missed.

But we had a truly incredible morning exploring yet another set of ruins in Mexico. It doesn’t matter how many I’ve seen, each has its own unique attributes.

After our time at Teotihuacan, we made our way to a nearby restaurant. Most in the area are exactly what you’d assume – terrible food made exclusively for tourists. But there was one exception: La Gruta.

Just a five minute drive away exists a traditional restaurant that mixes local ingredients with pre-Hispanic culinary heritage. We ate salad, tortillas, and soups (as vegetarians we had a limited, but delicious menu) with incredibly fun cocktails.

Oh, and did I mention that the restaurant is located inside a cave? : )

It was an absolutely perfect way to end our summer in Mexico.

Now that we’re back in Amman, I’m not really sure when or where our next adventure will be. But I’m grateful for all our memories this summer.

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